The Oakland Raiders home finale did not go as planned. A team destined for relocation to Las Vegas ended their tenure in the East Bay with a four point loss to a Jaguars team that fired their VP of Football Operations, traded away their best player midseason and relied on magic from rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II all season.
Fans booed and threw trash as they watched their team lose to another non-playoff team.
This was built up over the three years since the Raiders announced they would be leaving Oakland again, this time for Vegas. Fans showed up despite their team’s mediocrity during that time.
However, the Raiders have infamously relocated before. Fans in Los Angeles know what it is like to watch the Silver and Black leave too.
This week the Raiders will make one last home goodbye as they visit their AFC West rival Chargers.
“We were born in Oakland, and Oakland will always be part of our DNA,” Raiders owner Mark Davis said by phone this week per the LA Times’ Sam Farmer’s column. “But there were some great years in Los Angeles that will also be part of our DNA, and we’ll never forget that.”
The Bolts and Raiders were at one time trying to conquer the Southern California market together. The current SoFi stadium deal proposed by Rams owner Stan Kroenke eventually got chosen over the Raiders joint L.A. proposal with the Chargers in 2015. The current site of the Rams and Chargers SoFi stadium was almost home to the Raiders first but Al Davis pulled the strings from the deal at the last second.
However, the Raiders still have a strong base in Los Angeles.
The same Farmer column cited that Davis said the new stadium in Vegas already sold about 10 percent, roughly 6,500 seats, to people from the Los Angeles area. Davis said he also expects more on a game-by-game basis.
Still, Raiders and Chargers games have infamously looked and sounded like Raiders home games for a while.
Thus, the Raiders get one more shot to close out a home market when they face the Chargers Sunday. The Chargers are also saying goodbye to the Dignity Health Sports complex as they prepare to move in the new SoFi Stadium with the Rams next season.
Remembering the L.A. Raiders
L.A.’s connection the Raiders dates back to when the ‘Badasses’ won a Super Bowl XI in the Rose Bowl as the Oakland Raiders. They are L.A.’s only Super Bowl Champs as the winners of Super Bowl XVIII.
“(The Raiders) have history here, a championship history here. There’s still a lot of fans that remember those teams, and rightfully so.” Head coach Jon Gruden said after the Raiders returned to the L.A. Memorial Coliseum for a 2018 exhibition versus the Rams.
Fans were chanting all sorts of things for the Silver and Black, according to multiple media who attended the game. Players also cited that the tailgates looked like a Raiders Tailgate even though it was a Rams home game. Anecdotally, you can easily find Raider gear at either a Chargers or Rams game.
That backs up Former Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie too. McKenzie spent his first four years in the NFL as a Los Angeles Raiders linebacker as well as the better part of a decade as GM for the Oakland Raiders.
“It just tells you how strong Raider Nation really is,” McKenzie said after that game. “Once a Raider fan, you’re always a Raiders fan. They bleed silver and black.”
The Raiders have long been banking on activating that Southern California fanbase when they move to the Silver State.
“I think the combination of Oakland and L.A. will migrate to those games (in Las Vegas),” McKenzie said when he was still G.M. “I think we’re going to get a true Raiders fan base.”
Raiders Fans in the Southern California React to the Silver and Black leaving Oakland for Vegas
Rick Romero, 47, of Anaheim described the L.A. Coliseum as a ‘dream’ when it was home to his Raiders. He became a Los Angeles Raiders fan when the team won the Super Bowl in 1983.
After they left in 1994, he said it was totally different. The return to the Bay was mediocre at best as the team went five seasons before their first winning record. It was not like when they came to Los Angeles and started winning right away.
“Oakland was a different breed.” Romero said about his team’s move back to the bay in the 90s. “Totally different than L.A. where everyone knew each other’s first names.”
He said the gameday experience felt more like a party and less like a community when they returned to the Bay.
Still, Romero followed the team then and plans to follow them to Vegas. He said the move to Vegas isn’t really a big deal because he was far more disappointed when the Raiders left Los Angeles for the Bay.
“It seemed like we already were going out-of-state,” Romero said about the five-hour commute to Raiders home games in Oakland which will now get cut in half with the team in Vegas.
As for L.A.’s other teams currently in residence, Romero said he has to follow them only because they’re local.
“In my city, Anaheim, advertising [for Rams and Chargers] is here all over the streets.”
The Transient Fan Base
Mario Caballero, was born in Northern California, but spent the last nine years in Los Angeles after coming here for college. The 27-year-old online advertising professional said he’s been a Raiders fan since birth, inherited from his dad.
“There are pictures of me as a kid in full Raiders get-up for Halloween,” Caballero said.
He drove up for a tailgate versus the Bengals this season and drove up to a tailgate last year. Caballero said he always remembers how crazy and exciting the Black Hole was for a team that wasn’t that good.
The Raiders are 94-106 overall since returning to Oakland from L.A. but they were 118-72 across their 13 seasons in L.A. It took them four years before they saw a losing record in L.A. while Oakland got back a mediocre .500 in three of its first five seasons.
“Extra curriculars didn’t matter, shape of the stadium didn’t matter, all that matters was the Raiders were playing.” Caballero added about his experience watching the Raiders in Oakland.
Unfortunately, the Silver and Black close out their time in the East Bay with three consecutive non-winning seasons too.
Caballero still feels mixed emotions about the team leaving Oakland ‘because that’s where they were born.’
However, Caballero said Raider Nation is the most unique fanbase on the planet. He said Raider Nation is already like a regional fanbase already.
“They’re a transcendent team not held back by barriers.” Caballero said. “It doesn’t matter if they play on Mars, Raiders fans will be there.”
He knows the Raiders in Vegas won’t be the same vibe or experience as Oakland but he is not joining either fanbase in L.A. either.
“The Raiders are named after pirates and sometimes pirates don’t have a home.” Caballero added.
Relocation is Not New Business
Darrel Wilson, a 42 year-old South Los Angeles native, hosts the Raiders Brawl podcast and has worked in Los Angeles sports media for almost a decade.
His family, Jamaican descent, came to Los Angeles right around the time the Raiders moved to L.A. which made adopting the team too easy.
Wilson said everyone in the City was wearing Raiders gear as well because they were either NWA fans, gang-affiliated or Raiders fans.
When the team left for the Bay, he was a High School senior. Wilson said it actually made him a bigger fan because the games were no longer blacked out in L.A. and they could watch the game on the local TV.
In fact, Raiders broadcasts and merch sales actually did better in L.A. than the Rams and Chargers when they first moved here in 2016. That was the Raiders last great season but Raider Nation in Los Angeles always supported their Raiders.
As for Vegas, Wilson said he is more likely to go to a game and he sees more coverage opportunities since it is closer but he does not expect the Raiders brand of play to change.
“There’s no reason for it to change.” Wilson said. “Badass, hard-hitting and crazy fans are perfect for Vegas.”
Darrel, like Rick and Mario, is still skeptical of the Vegas experience including tailgating and wants to see for himself. Most of all he wants to see what sort of home field advantage the stadium brings.
“The Coliseum is dirty and grimy,” Darrel said after clarifying his statement with no disrespect. “Opposing teams did not feel comfortable because of the lack of facilities but now there is no disadvantage for them with state of the art facilities.”
As for what Los Angeles is like since the NFL returned, Wilson said it seems like Raiders and Chargers games are good for the economy.
He described a different vibe in the city on Sundays and that people seem more willing to spend money overall.
“If the Rams are doing good people are happy, the city is happy,” Wilson said.
Raiders Never Left Los Angeles
Ace Okeke, better known as @RaiderACE562 on Twitter, described Rams fans differently. The die-hard Raider fan since birth described Los Angeles as apathetic towards the NFL once the team left.
“During relocation a lot of them [Rams Fans] were so crappy to us,” Okeke said about Rams fans in L.A. before they officially moved to L.A. “Stan Kroenke [The Rams Owner] did not want the Raiders.”
The Cerritos resident said he has no love for the Rams or Chargers and puts them both in his top-five most despised franchises. It’s his job to make it seem as if the Raiders were always and never left L.A.
Okeke acknowledged the stereotypes that came with L.A. Raiders fans when the team was here. However, he said it was a product of the times. The 90s in Los Angeles featured the riots and a number of inciting events that attracted violence and bad characters throughout the area, not just Raiders fans.
“They [the NFL] have to acknowledge L.A. is still migrating towards the Raiders.” Okeke said. “They tried to deny the inevitable.”
The Chargers attendance struggles in L.A. are well documented. The Raiders presence facing L.A. NFL teams is also well-known. In fact, a recent ESPN report detailed the NFL’s turmoil with L.A. relocation. League research initially indicated the Rams and Chargers had less local fans than the Pats, Steelers, Packers, Cowboys and Raiders.
Further, the report read:
“A “fair amount” of the Raiders SSL buyers live in L.A. and will hop on I-15 on weekends, an executive with knowledge of the sales says. It has left a few owners and team officials worried and irritated that the Raiders have siphoned off part of an already wary L.A. fan base.”
L.A. Times did a map outlining the most popular NFL team by SoCal Neighborhood. You will find a lot of Rams tickets bought but you can find pockets of Raiders fans too.
Ace, like Rick and others, still holds hope that 30-40 years down the road the Silver and Black will again call Los Angeles home.
Nonetheless, Okeke looked back at the Raiders second-tenure in Oakland foundly. He said he will miss the people and atmosphere.
“Every time I to to a tailgate [In Oakland], I feel like the Raiders have already won.” Okeke said.
He also said that he knows the Vegas gameday experience will turnout different.
Still, Okeke hopes they can find more parking around the stadium because at least trying to recreate the Oakland tailgate experience is ‘non-negotiable.’
Raiders Nation’s Common Ground
Raymond Almonte described himself as an L.A. mid-city kid from an immigrant family. He works for a non-profit in L.A. now.
Almonte remembers watching a L.A. Raiders playoff game at a young age. It was one of his first experiences watching football. Almonte said everything pop culture at the time was Silver and Black in Los Angeles too.
He isn’t the only person from an immigrant family who adopted the Raiders. One Latino family also said the immigrants in the city related to the Raiders because of the outcast image, per the L.A. Times article.
Further, the 37-year-old Almonte hoped the team would return to L.A. when rumors surfaced over the years but he expressed disappointment that the team was not able to get a stadium in Oakland.
Almonte said he preferred the experience in Oakland over Vegas. He worries there will be more fair weather fans in Vegas.
“Vegas is everyone’s city.” Almonte said.
He doesn’t know if Raiders fans will be able to afford the new stadium especially since Vegas is already filled with so much entertainment and splurging options. Party, gambling and all the resorts fees to pay for the new stadium won’t help the cost of attending a game for your die-hard Raiders fan from Oakland, Almonte said.
Otherwise, Raymond said L.A. Raiders fans can understand what Oakland is going through with the Raiders dipping.
“We understand each other.” Almonte said. “We both went through an era without a team.”
Over the twenty years the Raiders did not have a team in Los Angeles, 22 new stadiums built for 23 teams and 31 preseason or regular-season NFL games were held around the globe. Los Angeles got used as a threat of relocation to get public dollars in those stadium negotiations and they got zero games over that time. Oakland might get the same treatment over the next few years.
Except it will probably be worse in Oakland since L.A. rallied around various success from their other Pro Sports teams like the Sparks, Lakers, Clippers, UCLA, USC, Dodgers, Angels and Galaxy. Meanwhile, Oakland just lost the Warriors to San Francisco and the A’s are still battling for a new stadium.
As for Raiders fans who are about to go through an era without a team like he did, Almonte said:
“How do you tell someone to be faithful?”
He added that faith is a test of will, like marriage, and really all Raiders fans in Oakland can do is stay faithful like he and other Raiders fans in L.A. have.
The following contains original reporting Pete D. Camarillo did which was original published on FullPressCoverage.com. It has been updated and revised as a news story.
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